Posted by: The ocean update | March 12, 2018

Lost gear kills and maims sea life, reduces fish stocks (Worldwide)

Fishermen with a stingray and gear at Mombasa Old Town / FILE

March 12th, 2018 (Agatha Nghoto). At least 640,000 tonnes of lost and abandoned fishing gear are choking the oceans and killing and mutilating whales, dolphins, turtles and other marine life.

A report released yesterday said lost or “ghost” nylon plastic fishing nets, metal hooks and other gear are causing a major loss of fish stocks in oceans and lakes. The abandoned plastic gear can take as long as 600 years to decompose.

The report ‘The Ghosts Beneath’ (link) by World Animal Protection say least 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear are lost every year.

“This kills and mutilates millions of marine animals, including endangered whales, seals, turtles,” the report said. “The vast majority of entanglements cause serious harm or death. Swallowing plastic remnants from ghost gear leads to malnutrition, digestive blockages, poor health and death,” it said.

Every year more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles become entangled in lost and abandoned gear, the report said.

Edith Kabesiime, Campaigns Manager for Wildlife at World Animal Protection, said that prevention of ghost gear is vital, as it kills marine life and depletes fish stocks.

“Lost gear is four times more likely to trap and kill marine animals than all other forms of marine debris combined. In addition, it is also contributing to the ocean’s plastic problem, as more that 70 percent of macro-plastics by weight are fishing-related,” Kabesiime said.

Fishing gear is designed to catch and kill and when it is left in the ocean or a lake it is the most harmful form of marine debris.

“Sea food companies should be at the forefront in addressing the impact of ghost gear on marine life. These companies must remember that consumers demonstrate they care about the welfare of animals when they decide what brands to put in shopping baskets,” she said.

There was a worldwide uproar in the 1990s because so many dolphins and porpoises were caught and killed in fishing nets deployed by fishing fleets seeking tuna for canning. They are a common “by-catch”. The campaign to save dolphins was  so successful that some cans of tuna are marked dolphin-safe or dolphin-friendly.

Marine conservationists say the system is far from perfect and there is no guarantee dolphins are safe. Still the campaign demonstrates that pressure can be applied to seafood companies.

The destructive Ghost Fishing Cycle. (Source : Olive Ridley Project)

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